YouTube pulls Myanmar military channels as UN prepares to meet on crisis

YouTube has removed five channels run by Myanmar’s military for violating its guidelines.

The video service announced the move on Friday, as demonstrators defied growing violence by security forces and staged more anti-coup protests ahead of a special UN Security Council meeting on the country’s political crisis.

YouTube said it was watching for any further content that might violate its rules.
Anti-coup protesters wearing helmets and masks take positions as police gather in Yangon, Myanmar, Friday, March 5, 2021. (AP Photo) (AP)

It earlier pulled dozens of channels as part of an investigation into content uploaded in a coordinated influence campaign.

The decision by YouTube followed Facebook’s earlier announcement that it had removed all Myanmar military-linked pages from its site and Instagram, which it also owns.

Large protests against military rule have occurred daily in many cities and towns.

Security forces escalated their crackdown this week with greater use of lethal force and mass arrests.

Anti-coup protesters maintain their position behind a barricade despite smoke from tear gas. (AP Photo) (AP)

More than 1000 people had been arrested, the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said.

Protests continued in the country’s biggest cities, Yangon and Mandalay, and elsewhere on Friday, and were again met by force from police.

Many cases of targeted brutality have been captured in photos and videos that have circulated widely on social media.

Videos showed security forces shooting people at point-blank range and chasing down and savagely beating demonstrators.

The United States called the images appalling and the UN human rights chief said it was time to “end the military’s stranglehold over democracy in Myanmar”.

The world body’s independent expert on human rights in the country, Tom Andrews, urged Security Council members to watch the videos before their closed-door consultations on Friday.

While many abuses are committed by police, there is even greater concern about military forces being deployed in cities across the country that are notorious for decades of brutal counter-insurgency tactics and human rights abuses.

Dozens slain in dramatic escalation of Myanmar protest violence

In Yangon, members of the army’s 77th Light Infantry Division have been deployed during anti-coup protests.

The 77th was also deployed in Yangon in 2007 to suppress anti-junta protests, firing upon protesters and ramming them with trucks, witnesses told Human Rights Watch.

The 99th Light Infantry Division has also been deployed, including in Mandalay.

It also has been accused of war crimes in Shan state, another ethnic minority area, in 2016 and early 2017.

Any kind of coordinated action at the UN will be difficult since two permanent members of the Security Council, China and Russia, are likely to veto it.

Mourners flash the three-fingered salute as they carry the coffin of Pho Chit, an anti-coup protester who died during a March 3 rally. (AP Photo) (AP)

Even if the council did take action, UN special envoy to Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener cautioned this week it might not make much difference.

She said she warned Myanmar’s army the world’s nations and the Security Council “might take huge strong measures.”

“The answer was, ‘we are used to sanctions and we survived those sanctions in the past,'” she said.

When she also warned Myanmar would become isolated, Schraner Burgener said, “the answer was ‘we have to learn to walk with only a few friends.'”

The Association of South-East Asian Nations has urged a halt to violence and the start of talks on a peaceful solution in Myanmar.

The 10-member regional grouping, which includes Myanmar, is constrained from enacting serious measures by a tradition of acting by consensus and reluctance to interfere in each other’s internal affairs.

However, one member, Singapore, was outspoken on Friday in criticising Myanmar’s coup.

“It is the height of national shame for the armed forces of any country to turn its arms against its own people,” its foreign minister, Vivian Balakrishnan, said in Parliament.

But he also warned the approach favoured by some Western nations, of pressuring Myanmar’s generals with sanctions, would not be effective.

The US, Britain and several other countries have already started to use that approach.

Anti-coup protesters wearing helmets and masks take positions as police gather in Yangon, Myanmar, Friday, March 5, 2021. (AP Photo) (AP)

“Despite all our fervour and earnest hopes of reconciliation … the keys ultimately lie within Myanmar. And there’s a limit to how far external pressure will be brought to bear,” he said.

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